Book Review: “Miracles”

My wife and I recently finished reading “Miracles” – one of the many classics from C.S. Lewis.

The book begins by poking some holes in naturalism. By comparing the assumptions of naturalists with those of supernaturalists, Lewis effectively undermines the modern belief that naturalism is somehow more “rational”.

CS Lewis

For the remainder of the book, Lewis methodically builds a case for the miraculous. One of his central arguments is the idea that miracles, while apparently violating the laws of “nature” (defined as the observed universe) actually fit within a broader definition of “nature” (defined as the entirety of God’s creation, both observed and unobserved). In the last few chapters, it is further explained how Christianity – via “The Grand Miracle” – radically differentiates itself from other religions.

I highly recommend this book not only to Christians seeking to defend their belief in miracles, but also to anyone who is simply curious to learn why some of us continue to hold these beliefs in this modern, scientific, “post-miraculous” age.

I’ve collected below a few of my favorite passages:

“When a thing professes from the very outset to be a unique invasion of Nature by something from outside, increasing knowledge of Nature can never make it either more or less credible than it was at the beginning. In this sense it is mere confusion of thought to suppose that advancing science has made it harder for us to accept miracles. We always knew they were contrary to the natural course of events; we know still that if there is something beyond Nature, they are possible.” 

“It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.”

“If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform. It can be trusted only if quite a different Metaphysic is true. If the deepest thing in reality, the Fact which is the source of all other facthood, is a thing in some degree like ourselves – if it is a Rational Spirit and we derive our rational spirituality from it – then indeed our conviction can be trusted. Our repugnance to disorder is derived from Nature’s Creator and ours. The disorderly world which we cannot endure to believe in is the disorderly world He would not have endured to create.”

‎”In the Christian story God descends to reascend…He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”

“I do not think that it is the duty of a Christian apologist (as many sceptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records, nor of a Christian man to disbelieve them. I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans or never permitted created supernatural beings to do so…But I claim that the Christian miracles have a much greater intrinsic probability in virtue of their organic connection with one another and with the whole structure of the religion they exhibit.”

“Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?”

Are Freethinkers Really Free?

The freethought movement has seen something of a resurgence lately, particularly on college campuses. With very few exceptions (and speaking strictly from personal experience as a 23-year-old American), freethinkers are marked by their progressive social and political views, their disdain for organized religion (sometimes veiled for the sake of “tolerance”…but sometimes not), and their visceral distrust of traditional beliefs and values.

So what, exactly, do freethinkers mean when they describe their thinking as “free”?

  • If they’re referring to freedom from religious or institutional bias, then they’re fooling themselves. When it comes to our thoughts, all of us are subject to social and moral biases – regardless of where they might come from. Some are influenced by religion, certainly…but even our freethinking friends are influenced by secular philosophy, education, public opinion, peers, and the media. Taken literally, nobody is a “free” thinker, since nobody is completely insulated from outside influences.
  • If they’re referring to the ability to define one’s own unique worldview, then they’re doing a poor job of it. We would expect to see some intellectual diversity within the freethinking community. Instead, they all seem to have reached almost the exact same conclusions.

This brings me to the biggest question I have for freethinkers. If our thinking is to be truly free, should we not also be free to accept the Christian narrative as being compellingly true? Because it seems that “free thought” is revealed as a sham when it eliminates the option – and even the possibility – of freely embracing traditional Christian doctrines.

Related Articles

Letter to a Free Thinker (J.W. Wartick)

Common Sense Orthodoxy (Reviewed Thought)

What are Human Rights, and Where do They Come From?

Has anyone else noticed that – at least in the minds of many – our list of “basic human rights” has expanded in recent years? I’m thinking specifically about the ongoing debates over healthcare reform, gay marriage, and the availability of contraception and abortions. For example:

“Affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”

“Everyone has the right to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation.”

“Allowing religious institutions to opt out of providing health coverage for contraception is a violation of women’s reproductive rights.”

These kinds of statements are rampant, yet we seldom hear anyone stop to define exactly what they mean when they say something is a “right”. Clearly they don’t mean legal rights, at least not as the law is currently written. They seem instead to be appealing to something more fundamental to our human existence.

The next obvious question: Where do these rights come from?

“Think of this great flaming phrase: “certain inalienable rights.” Who gives the rights? The state? Then they are not inalienable because the state can change them and take them away. Where do the rights come from? [Jefferson and others] understood that they were founding the country upon the concept that goes back into the Judeo-Christian thinking that there is Someone there who gave the inalienable rights.” -Francis Schaeffer

Unfortunately, I suspect that much of what’s being defined as “human rights” these days is really nothing more than the personal desires of the individual making the claim. Isn’t it just a LITTLE absurd, after all, to suggest that every human is born with the right to an affordable, government-approved health insurance plan? Surely this must come as shocking news to the billions of people who haven’t been raised with our entitled first-world mindset.

Perhaps in a few years we’ll be arguing over the “basic human right to a smartphone”…

See also:

It Is Human Nature That People Are Corruptible

The Federal Gov’t Isn’t #1 In Our Lives